Author: Kathleen

The Problem with Public Schools

The Problem with Public Schools

Editorial: Learning loss is bad everywhere, and demands immediate action

One of the most obvious reasons for the US’s huge student debt burden is that the nation has made poor decisions—which I blame on an inadequate social safety net, among other things.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find that, in his new book, What Do Kids Learn?, professor of education and author of Parenting Matters: A New Parent’s Guide to the Good News of Our Public Schools, Ron Haskins, writes:

We’ve long known about the long-term consequences of failure to educate our children, but we’ve largely focused on teaching to the test and raising more tests rather than thinking about how to teach “to the child.”

That’s pretty accurate. But it gets worse. Haskins notes that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that children in the United States “score worse on their reading and math assessments as they get older.” And then, he tells us, “the reasons for this are that we’ve done poorly in both of these areas, and we’ve taught our children to respond well to our failure.” (Not to mention, Haskins writes, the huge amounts of money we spend on testing, for both school and government, are “just a proxy for not thinking about what the real problem is.”)

He calls for a return to “the teaching of how to read and write” and “the development of more effective reading standards.” And, he writes, “If it can be done with a few billion dollars, it can be done with a few million as well.”

How could that be? Let’s think about this for a moment.

The basic reality is that schools, parents, and students—all of us—are not on the same team in the same arena. There’s no way around that fact. We have different roles to play at different times. We get some of our knowledge and tools, and help shape our children’s lives, from other sources, mostly through the public school system.

But there’s a flip side. We’ve also got to think about the children who aren’t in our schools. Which is the point of learning loss, and why I

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